My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today I have released to the EU the UK’s response to the NATO 2008 defence planning questionnaire. This questionnaire contains information on our forces and capabilities which we, and all other NATO partners, send to NATO on a biannual basis as part of their force planning process. NATO uses this information to understand what capabilities allies would in principle make available for NATO operations and to inform the planning process.
NATO and the EU operate separate force planning and capability development processes and until now the UK has made different offers of capability to the EU and to NATO. For NATO we offer a large-scale force package while we offer a medium-scale force package to the EU, which reflects the lower level of strategic ambition within the European Security and Defence Policy framework. However, following the precedent set by a number of other NATO partners we have decided to submit our NATO defence planning questionnaire responses as the single source of UK information for both the NATO and EU capability planning processes. Respecting the autonomous decision-making processes of both organisations and noting that our single set of capabilities is available for the UN, EU as well as NATO and potentially other multilateral coalition operations, we judge it to be more efficient to maintain one set of information on our forces and capabilities and to provide it in the same format to NATO and the EU. Using the same set of information on the nation’s capabilities will, in concurrency terms, assist both organisations in identifying and understanding the shortfalls that exist across both organisations and in taking remedial action to address those shortfalls without duplication of effort. Sending the UK defence planning questionnaire to the EU will also provide momentum to the drive for greater harmonisation between the NATO and EU planning processes, a longstanding UK aspiration which other nations support. We further hope that by taking this step it will encourage other European allies to follow suit.
It remains the case that, in respect of any multinational operation, our forces are made available on a case by case basis following a national decision. Releasing the UK defence planning questionnaire to the EU does not therefore mean that we are increasing our level of commitment to any current or future EU operation.